Dietitian’s 3 things to know before taking Ozempic

Ozempic and other drugs that aid in weight loss are a hot topic in the nutrition space. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey are revealing that their weight loss journeys had some help from products like Ozempic. Now, patients are asking their doctors about the diabetes treatment, and doctors are prescribing them for more than blood sugar management.

People with diabetes, who are the original target demographic for this drug, are having trouble accessing it because of shortages. If you find yourself curious about taking the drug, it’s best to seek credible information in order to make an informed decision for yourself. For now, let’s go through the top three things that you need to know about Ozempic, from a registered dietitian.

First, we need to understand exactly what Ozempic is. Ozempic falls under the category of medications called GLP-1 agonists. GLP-1 is glucagon-like peptide‑1. It’s a hormone that your body naturally makes, and it’s released from cells in the intestine. It helps your body to release more insulin to better stabilize blood sugar levels.

People with diabetes have impaired GLP-1 functionality, so they run higher blood sugar levels and have difficulty keeping them under control. Ozempic helps this process to work smoothly again, encouraging balanced blood sugars and lowering HbA1C levels, which measures average blood sugar levels over three months.

Patient injecting themself in the stomach with an Ozempic (semaglutide) needle.
Patient injecting themself in the stomach with an Ozempic (semaglutide) needle. (Photo by Douglas Cliff on Shutterstock)

3 things to know about this medication

You could lose weight with Ozempic but will probably gain it back once you stop using it.

You “could” lose weight with this drug, but it isn’t a guarantee. It’s important to not start taking the drug with the mindset that it’s your immediate ticket to a slim body. It doesn’t happen for everyone, and it could leave you feeling hopeless.

Many research trials for weight loss have also received funding from Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company that makes Ozempic, which means the risk of a conflict of interest is high. Additionally, it’s important to know that a drug is not a lifestyle change. Going on Ozempic might help you shed the pounds, but it’s your job to keep them off.

People have reported that they gained the weight back after stopping the drug or lost access to it due to supply or insurance issues, but that’s largely because they wanted the drug to do the weight loss work for them. Both weight loss and maintenance require positive lifestyle alterations to be sustainable long-term.

Man worn out, exhausted from exercising
Going on Ozempic might help you shed the pounds, but it’s your job to keep them off. (© rangizzz –

You are likely to experience undesirable side-effects from taking Ozempic.

Studies have consistently shown that gastrointestinal distress is a common side-effect. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, GERD, and abdominal pain are all commonly reported. For most people, the symptoms resolve with minimal intervention, but for others, they can persist for days, weeks, and even months.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also issued a black box warning for Ozempic and others like it because studies have shown that they can increase the risk of thyroid tumors. Of course, these studies were conducted on mice, so we can’t say that this is the case for humans just yet. Scientists are working on it, but we won’t have results for a few more years.

Overweight woman applying medicine injection
Studies have consistently shown that gastrointestinal distress is a common side-effect of taking Ozempic. (© Mauricio –

We don’t have long-term data on Ozempic.

The FDA approved Ozempic for the treatment of diabetes in 2017. As of now, the longest timeframe available was two years. Therefore, nobody can conclusively say what the long-term effects of taking Ozempic will be 10 or 15 years from now.

This is nothing new. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, ephedra, also called ma huang, was the main ingredient in several weight loss products across the country at the time. It was praised is the same way as Ozempic but was seriously harming users. It was linked to heart attack, stroke, seizures, high blood pressure, and more. After seeing a spike in calls to the poison center in the early 2000s, the FDA banned the sale of products with ephedra in 2004. It remains illegal to this day.

Bottom Line

Ozempic has definitely showed benefits for people with diabetes, and even those battling obesity. However, its popularity has been driven by people wanting to turn to these drugs just for the sake of losing some weight.

All medications come with risks, but many people aren’t fully assessing them. For people with diabetes, working with your doctor to figure out a medication regimen and lifestyle change to facilitate improvements is a positive step. Ozempic may be part of that journey for you. Still, even with all this hype, it’s important to remain informed regardless of the reason you want to take Ozempic.

Ozempic has been shown to lead to gastrointestinal distress, and we also don’t have long-term data or the ability to say that weight loss induced by the drug will last after you’re off the drug. No drug will ever be a quick fix for weight loss, and it’s important to not consume Ozempic with that mindset.

If you struggle with binge eating or have an otherwise unhealthy perspective on food, it’s important to address this issue, as using a medication for intentional weight loss could exacerbate the problem. Working with a registered dietitian can help you work through this in a healthy way.

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About the Author

Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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